Vietnam for girls – Part 1

“Let’s do a ‘girls’ trekking trip in Vietnam”, said my dear friend, Miranda. “Fabulous idea”, I agreed, “Let’s book it!” Which is how I came to be looking down with some trepidation, at an extremely narrow, steep and slippery track. This was the start of our four day trek in the picturesque frontier town of Sapa, in northwest Vietnam.

Plans for the trip had been laid some eight months before, when Miranda had invited me to stay with her in Singapore, where she is presently living. The trekking idea materialised when she realised we could do the sights of Singapore in five days, leaving nine free days to explore further afield. After much research into the best areas for trekking and weather conditions in October, our month of travel, we decided on Sapa as our destination, as it is famous for its rugged scenery and colourful ethnic diversity.

Overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai When news of our ‘girls only’ trip reached our 25 year old daughters, they both decided they would like to join their intrepid mothers. They were easily added to the trip, so it was with great excitement that the four of us boarded the overnight train in Hanoi for the eight hour journey to Lao Cai.

As trains in Asia go, this was definitely one of the better ones! We had a tiny 4 berth cabin with very hard bunks, but it was clean and the door locked, so we were happy. We arrived in Lao Cai at 5am and boarded the bus for the one hour drive up to Sapa. The road was narrow and tortuous and the Vietnamese driving skills are such that we had our eyes shut for most of the journey! However, we arrived at our hostel in one piece, ready for a shower, breakfast and to meet our trekking guide, Lan, a Hmong woman. We also met our trekking companions, a father and son team from Sicily, who proved to be very good company and enormous fun.

Setting off After breakfast, carrying backpacks stuffed with everything we needed for 3 days, we set off through the town with Lan, our guide, to the start of the trek – the scary looking descent! As Sapa sits 1500m above sea level in Vietnam’s northwest mountains, the weather is very changeable and this day was no exception. We started in beautiful sunshine, but soon became shrouded in very damp and misty conditions. However, this did not detract from the incredible beauty of the scenery – miles of ancient rice terraces dotted with the occasional farm, lush vegetation and bamboo forests.

Hmong People Passing through the first Hmong village on our route, we were joined by several of the village ladies, who, whilst only wearing flip-flops or jelly shoes on their feet, helped to guide us through the more difficult paths and trails, in return for us looking at and hopefully, buying, their home made items, such as blankets, jewellery and clothes, which we were more than happy to do, as their help was invaluable! We were totally in awe of these women, some of whom were not at all young, but all of whom were so strong and agile and appeared tireless. They used all our rest stops to get their embroidery out, so not a minute of the day was be wasted.

Rice terraces As we trekked on, we got a real flavour of life in this very beautiful part of the world. When passing through the villages, all the residents were busy – building houses, dying materials and hemp string for embroidery and even butchering a freshly killed pig! Children rarely attend school, instead the older ones take care of the younger ones, whilst Mum and Dad go out to work in the fields.

Sadly, the mist prevented us from seeing the view of Mount Fan Si Pan, which, apparently, is totally beautiful – on a good day! Eventually, after  8 hours of strenuous and sometimes, challenging trekking, we arrived at our homestay, which was Lan’s home. We were met on the approach to her house by her three children, the eldest who was 10, looks after her siblings whilst Lan works as a guide and her husband farms the land.

Our homestay, Lan's home We were shown upstairs to a large room with 4 mattresses on the floor on one side and two on the other! No time for privacy here! 

Lan went to work cooking us the most amazing feast of Vietnamese food we had ever seen and her daughter taught us how to make Vietnamese spring rolls, which was a really lovely – and tasted delicious.

When we eventually crawled up the stairs, completely exhausted, but very happy, we didn’t actually care that we were sharing a room with two men we barely knew, or that there were strange scrabbling sounds in the walls, we were just thankful to get some sleep after an exhilarating and enlightening day in the mountains of Sapa.

Day two faced us in the morning!

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Selective Asia.

193 people found this helpful

Share Article:


Retired NHS nurse, intrepid traveller & adventurer with a penchant for stilettos

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

With over 7,000 years of history, Malta is the ultimate holiday destination for any history buff!…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.